Education USA Undergraduate Study

Types of Schools
Application Requirements
Admission Exams


Undergraduate Study

There are approximately 4,000 universities in the U.S., each with its own areas of expertise and unique campus atmosphere. With plenty of preparation and research, you are bound to find one that is the right fit for you.

There are two types of undergraduate degrees offered in the U.S., the Associates Degree and the Bachelor’s Degree.  Students can study for one of the following degrees:

Associate’s Degree: Typically two years in length and offered at Community or Junior Colleges. Associates degrees often focus on vocational or technical skills. Similar to a Diploma in Ireland.

Bachelor’s Degree: Usually four years in length. Follows the liberal arts philosophy and typically includes required “core” courses, a major, and electives. Similar to a Bachelor’s Degree in Ireland.

Types of Schools

Types of Schools

Once you have narrowed down the type of degree you wish to pursue, it is important to explore your college options. In the U.S. there are both public and private universities.

Public Universities (State Schools): State-funded and often larger in size with a diverse study body. International students are typically required to pay “out-of-state” tuition, which is higher than paid by in-state residents, but often less expensive than a private university.

Private Universities: Supported by tuition, private donations, and grants, private universities are often more expensive to attend. However, they typically have grants available for international students. Private universities often have a smaller student body and very good facilities.

Each college in the U.S. is unique, so whether public or private, you will get an excellent education when you choose an accredited school that is right for you. Please note that there are no official rankings in the U.S. To check the accreditation status of a school, please see

Application Requirements

Application Requirements

Colleges in the U.S. review applications holistically, meaning that they look at all elements of “you.” Therefore, a college application will typically require:

–        A completed application form
–        Personal statement and two to three essays
–        Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT, plus SAT Subject Tests, if required)
–        Two or three reference letters
–        Transcript of final 4 years of school (all courses, grades, Junior and Leaving Certificate scores)
–        Application fee
–        Optional interviews

All of the above will be taken into consideration when reviewing your application. Not only are your grades and test results important, but U.S. colleges want to see well-rounded candidates who are involved in extracurricular activities, such as sports, volunteering, the arts, or work experience. Be proud of your achievements and be sure and share them in your application form.

Please note that there is no centralized application process in the U.S. so each application will vary. Some schools do utilize the Common Application.

Completing a successful application to a college in the U.S. will take up to 18 months. It is recommended that Irish students begin thinking of the process as early as their Fourth Year and actively working towards an application in their Fifth Year.

Spring of Fifth Year

  • Begin researching college options. Think about things like school location, campus life, cost of living, and areas of expertise when deciding on where to apply.
  • Use the Five Steps to U.S. Study Tool on the EducationUSA website to help with your search:
  • Consider taking a spring SAT exam or begin studying for an autumn test date.

Summer Between Fifth and Sixth Year

  • Continuing researching college options and narrow down selection to between four and six schools.
  • Take free practice tests on and sign up for autumn SAT. Be sure you sign up by the “early deadline,” as this is required for international students.
  • Begin drafting personal statements and essays for each application.

Autumn of Sixth Year

  • Take SAT exam and submit scores to your chosen schools. You can take the SAT more than once, but two times is typical.
  • Continue working hard in school, as U.S. colleges will want to see your transcript (all courses and grades), as well as your final Leaving Certificate scores.
  • Begin applications to chosen colleges. Be sure to check deadlines for each school, as they will vary. For Early Applications, some may be as early as November.
  • Ask your referees for written references, which are required for a college application. Be sure and give them plenty of notice. It is helpful to give them a brief résumé or CV to remind them of your extracurricular activities and other experiences.
  • Apply for financial aid, which is a separate process than the college application.

Spring of Sixth Year

  • Receive admission and funding decisions from university, typically around March or April.
  • Begin organizing your information for your student visa, either I-20, F-1 Student visa or DS-2019, J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. The visa process is through the U.S. Embassy in Dublin and more information can be found here:
  • Accept offer from university and pay non-refundable deposit. All deadlines vary so read your offer letter carefully.

Summer After Sixth Year

  • Complete your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy.
  • Begin studying in the U.S. at the end of the summer…Congratulations…
Admission Exams

Admission Exams

The majority of university applications require applicants to take a standardized test, either the SAT or ACT.

Please note that EducationUSA is not a testing center. You must book your exams directly with the test organization.


The SAT is a standardized test that measures critical thinking skills. It has three sections: Reading, Writing, and Math. Each section is scored between 200 and 800, for a maximum total of 2400. The test takes three hours and forty-five minutes to complete.

To register for the exam, please visit There is a fee to take this test and for the most up-to-date costs, please see the College Board website.

The exam is offered six times a year in up to three locations in Ireland:

  •  St. Conleth’s College, Ballsbridge, Co. Dublin
  • St. Andrew’s College, Booterstown, Co. Dublin

It is strongly recommended that students study for the SAT and there are a number of free tools available on the College Board website. St. Conleth’s College also offers the PSAT, which is the practice SAT that Fourth Year students can take. The PSAT is not required for admission to college but can be helpful in preparing students for the actual SAT exam.

 SAT Subject Tests

Some institutions will require the SAT Subject Tests, which are specialized exams in certain topics, such as Biology, French, or Literature (among many others). Not all tests are offered on each date, so please see for more details.


The ACT is another standardized test that is available to students applying to college in America. Dublin City University is the ACT test centre in Ireland.

The ACT tests students in English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. There is also an optional Writing section, which many competitive universities will require. The length of the exam is two hours and fifty-five minutes, plus the optional thirty minute writing portion.

For more information on the ACT, including test dates, fees, please see:


If you stopped your education early and did not complete your Leaving Certificate many universities will require that you take the GED, the General Educational Development test.

This test is used to demonstrate high school (secondary school) equivalency. The exam is offered in two seven hour parts that test Language Arts/Writing, Language Arts/Reading, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics. Scores range from 200-800 for each section.

Please note that this exam is not required if you have already successfully completed your Leaving Certificate.

The exam is offered in two locations in Dublin. For more information please see:



Tuition and fees will vary between each university so you need to read all information carefully when choosing the school that is right for you. It is also important to start your scholarship search early on in the application process, as funding a college education is expensive and you will need source funding to help you pay the tuition and cover other required costs.

Where to source Funding

Financial Aid Offices
Each school typically has a Financial Aid Office that oversees all university-based funding for students. You will need to complete the application for financial aid while you are applying to the school. Please note that deadlines may vary, so check these carefully. Funding can come in a variety of ways, through grants, work-study opportunities, or loans.

International Student Office
Many schools have an International Office that will be able to assist you with identifying opportunities for grants and scholarships. Not all scholarships will be open to international students, but this office should be able to tell you what you are eligible for.

Work Options
Students on a F-1 Visa can work up to 20 hours a week on campus. Once accepted to your university it is worth exploring this as an option.

Some schools will require that you set up a CSS Profile through the College Board website to apply for financial aid. There is more information on their website:

For more information on funding opportunities, including niche scholarships, please see EducationUSA’s Finance Your Studies page:

Sports Scholarships
Successfully securing a sports scholarship can be a complicated process. There are a number of athletic associations that govern college sports and athletic recruitment, including:

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): There are over 900 member universities and 250 provisional members classified within three NCAA divisions (Division I being the most competitive). Athletic standards are high and the level of competition is intense. Only students with the very highest standard of ability tend to be recruited.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA): There are around 350, mostly smaller colleges in the NAIA, organized by districts. The level of athletic ability is still high, although the standard is not generally as high as for NCAA teams.

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA): Member colleges are accredited two-year institutions. The NJCAA is also comprised of three divisions, with scholarships offered only at the Division I and II levels. Division I colleges may offer full scholarships and Division II may offer partial scholarships (tuition or fees and books).

If you are interested in receiving a sports scholarship there are typically recruitment forms on each school’s webpage for each sport. You should fill out this form once you have decided that you are interested in applying to that college. All prospective athletes must meet normal college admissions requirements and continue to obtain satisfactory grades at university in order to receive and retain their scholarships.

Scholarships for Irish Students

The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, USA offers a generous scholarship for Irish students to study at Notre Dame for an undergraduate degree consisting of four years of study. Eligible students must have Irish citizenship, reside in Ireland and have demonstrated financial need. Interested students need to apply to Notre Dame through the common application service by the regular action deadline in order to matriculate in August 2018.

For more information, please refer to:

For questions, please contact:
Office of Undergraduate Admissions

EducationUSA does not endorse or promote any school over the other. However, we are aware of this scholarship opportunity specifically aimed at Irish students.

Notre Dame Summer STEM Research Experience for Undergraduates

Irish undergraduates from Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, and University College Dublin who are in the STEM disciplines and seeking to further their research abilities may pursue the summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the University of Notre Dame.

The program lasts approximately 10 weeks over the summer. Students will receive a $7,000 USD stipend for travel and living expenses.

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